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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

South Carolina Environmental Health and Disease Laboratory Wins National Award

Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee’s Environmental Health and Disease Laboratory, also known as the Chatterjee Lab, was recognized with the Presidential Choice Distinction award by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) at their annual international meeting of more than 9,000 attendees in November. The honor placed the work of the Chatterjee Lab among the top 10 percent of more than 2,200 abstracts and research projects submitted from across the globe. “This award, along with various other recognitions our team has earned, is an important milestone for our lab that places us firmly on the national map as an established liver research lab,” Dr. Chatterjee says. This level of distinction would presumably take years, if not decades, to achieve. Not at the Chatterjee Lab.

As Dr. Chatterjee wrapped up his five-year post-doctoral fellowship with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2011, he knew he faced several challenging obstacles when he decided he wanted to create a world-class laboratory that focuses on both toxicology and liver research and is based in a school of public health. “It’s hard enough for any aspiring professor to establish a lab at a research institution,” Dr. Chatterjee says. “In addition, I didn’t have any professional training in clinical liver research myself being a basic scientist, and I wanted to create this lab in a school of public health whereas the vast majority of liver research labs are based in medical schools.”

Taking steps to overcome these barriers, Dr. Chatterjee pursued a collaborative venture as a part of his NIH Pathway to Independence program — this time studying gastroenterology, with an emphasis on liver injury and repair, under Dr. Anna Mae Diehl at Duke University. Next, he joined the Arnold School of Public Health’s department of environmental health sciences at the University of South Carolina to prove that contrary to tradition, public health provides the perfect context for not only toxicology, but also for liver research.

“One of the interesting things about being in a school of public health is that you have to work in a manner that your research really benefits public health,” says Dr. Chatterjee. “The lessons learned from my laboratory can be used by others at the Arnold School for translation and collaboration in the areas of health promotion, epidemiology, exercise science, policy change, etc.” These partnerships benefit his work as well.

“In South Carolina we have one of the highest obesity rates, very high alcohol consumption rates and high liver disease-related death rates,” he says. “This combination of factors provides a very rich environment for doing local research and solving problems right where we live. My colleagues from other departments are going out and collecting information about what’s happening in our communities, and bringing that data back to our collaborative projects, which we then integrate into our lab research.”

Having identified his research interests and the best setting for his lab, Dr. Chatterjee next turned his attention to what he considers the greatest secret to his lab’s success: passion. He hit the ground running when he arrived at the Arnold School during the fall of 2012, quickly assembling a team of motivated and enthusiastic postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who shared his passion and vision.

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